Suit Against County Sheriff Moves Forward
November 26, 2010
SUTTONS BAY, Mich. — A federal judge has refused to throw out a lawsuit filed against the Leelanau County sheriff that accuses him of eavesdropping on and bullying subordinates.
U.S. District Judge Janet Neff issued an order this week denying a motion to dismiss the suit against Sheriff Mike Oltersdorf.
The lawsuit was filed last year by several current and former members of the sheriff’s department.
Oltersdorf is accused of listening to conversations on what employees believed to be private lines in several instances dating to 2006. The suit also claims Oltersdorf used recordings of conversations critical of him to intimidate and discipline officers.
Neff said defense lawyers didn’t provide a good reason for the suit to be thrown out.
The Traverse City Record-Eagle wasn’t able to reach Oltersdorf and his attorney on Wednesday.
Lawyer Mike Dettmer, who represents the group of plaintiffs, said he wasn’t surprised by the judge’s decision.
“This is a straightforward case in our mind, and this was just the next step in getting to trial,” he told the Record-Eagle. “The sheriff has a pattern of retaliation against his employees, and he will be held accountable for it.”
A trial is scheduled for February.
A settlement conference also is set for next month, but Dettmer said he doesn’t expect a deal will be reached.
The suit is only one of several conflicts between Oltersdorf and his employees in recent years.
He fired Sgt. James Kiessel and Deputy Duane Wright, two plaintiffs in the suit, after he said they “abused their power” during an investigation.
Both men filed a grievance over their terminations.
Wright eventually was reinstated, but Kiessel still is out of work.